NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Forty years of value destruction? Or four decades of e-revolution? Your view of the Internet probably depends on where you stand, as either a buyer or a seller. Some big offline commercial pillars like Blockbuster ( BBI) or The New York Times ( NYT), or failed phonebook publisher R.H. Donnelley have crumbled dramatically under the weight of the online model. Since the first computer network error message was received 40 years ago, the Internet has been a force of disruption, a spigot of cheap distribution, an undertow of devaluation. For every Expedia ( EXPE), there are thousands of shuttered travel agencies. And the virtual shelves of ebooks on Amazon's ( AMZN) Kindle threaten to fell forests of book publishers. Google ( GOOG) has done a fair share of undercutting in its 11 years as a company. In its quest to index all the world's information, Google's search service has become the news, pictures and video kiosk for the planet. Now that Google's Android wireless operating system has become a formidable contender, the Internet giant has a whole new set of peers. Google's Navigation application on the new Motorola ( MOT) Droid phone coming to Verizon ( VZ) on Friday could be a big threat to GPS device makers and services like Garmin ( GRMN).
The decline of GPS devices has been coming ever since phones started getting smarter. Not only were navigation maps and directions easy to include, but telcos could also charge extra for use of the service.
Google may not have an application that will put an end to all need for separate GPS devices, but it will certainly quicken the decline of GPS specialists. Google Navigation adds Internet data like satellite pictures and even street-level panoramic views to the basics of spoken turn-by-turn instructions. And while Google "Street View" might be a killer app in navigation, the real threat is characteristically Internet: The price of the service is free. Yes, the Net tramples on. For consumers, it's been a golden era, but for businesses that can't adapt, it is a brutal competitor.